I was expecting a lecture from my Consultant about my shoes – but peeping out from under her desk were the same shoes as I was wearing,made by Ferragamo
Passionate about shoes,at the age of eleven Ferragamo was apprenticed to a shoemaker; by the age of thirteen, he had opened a shop; at sixteen, he followed one of his brothers to America, where he worked at a large shoe factory in Boston. Salvatore was fascinated
He was fascinated by the modernity of the machines and the production processes, but he could also see the way they posed limits to the quality of the shoes. In the early 1920s, he followed another of his brothers to Santa Barbara, California, where he opened a shoe repair shop.
California in those years was the land of the budding movie industry and Salvatore began designing and crafting cowboy boots for Westerns and Roman and Egyptian sandals for the colossal Hollywood period pieces. It did not take long for the actors and actresses to notice the beauty and comfort of his shoes, and soon they began ordering them to wear off the set as well, while Salvatore, constantly searching for “shoes with the perfect fit”, studied human anatomy, chemical engineering and mathematics at the University of Los Angeles, devoting particular attention to the study of the arch of the foot and research into technical solutions that would ensure better support and balance in a shoe.
When the movie industry moved to Hollywood, Ferragamo followed. In 1923, he opened
the Hollywood Boot Shop and began his career as “shoemaker to the stars”, as the press named him. His loyal customers included celebrities, and his popularity grew. Salvatore was ahead of
his time, and he revolutionised the fashion of the times by opening women’s shoes, which until then
had been laced and closed. He made them more elegant and more comfortable; he created the first sandals. His success was so great that he could not keep up with orders.
However, American craftsmanship was not up to the task of making the kind of shoes he had in
mind, and in 1927, Ferragamo decided to return to Italy to open a workshop in Florence, a city with
a tradition of expert craftsmen.
The years that followed saw the consolidation of his creative and business achievements, with
celebrities travelling to Florence to have custom shoes made by Salvatore Ferragamo.
This was when, given his resounding success, he was able to purchase Palazzo Spini Feroni in Via dei
Tornabuoni, and it has remained the company’s headquarters since then. In 1938, in addition to the Florence shop, Ferragamo opened shops on Old Bond Street in London and Via Condotti in Rome.
After the war, Salvatore Ferragamo’s shoes became a symbol of Italy around the world through his
many inventions, including the steel-reinforced stiletto heel made famous by Marilyn Monroe, the gold sandal and the invisible sandal with an upper made out of fishing line. In 1950s, Ferragamo’s company had roughly 700 workers who handcrafted a few hundred shoes per day.
Salvatore Ferragamo died in 1960, after achieving world renown and international success.
Over the course of his lifetime, he filed over 300 patents, nearly all of which were in the field of shoes,
He paved the way for women’s sandals, invented the cork wedge and developed the stiletto heel
reinforced with steel. His immeasurable creativity is demonstrated by the company’s current
archives, containing more than 14,000 different styles of women’s shoes.
Fans like myself, and my Consultant, can take advantage of the way the shoes are made to cradle the foot, as well as being extremely comfortable; I can walk out of the shop wearing a new pair, and never have to ‘break them in’. Yes, they are expensive, but I still wearing some I bought 15 years ago. And with Lymphoedema, I can wear flatties – but still feel glamorous in their Vara model.
And once you are a customer, ‘your’ assistant tells you when there a special sale, with certain pairs available for regular customers at bargain prices. .
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